Is golf - should golf be considered - discretionary spending?
I propose not.
There are two key reasons I’m considering this question. The first is relatively obvious. The second is what I hope to dig a little deeper into. It may change the way you think about this game you play.
Part One: Owning a golf business in a recession.
I first became aware of the concept in 2009. I had just taken a job as Director of Instruction at a private club in St. Louis after a steady increase in popularity as a golf instructor. I was starting to make a tiny name for myself in the small pond of the midwest and was super excited to be at a prestigious club. At the same time I was working heavily on my game in preparation for a future in competitive golf. I wasn’t sure how I would make that transition but the market crash and decrease in discretionary spending was going to make that move a little easier.
I left the midwest and started a full-time playing career in California and rode out the recession on the highways of mini-tour life. Often sleeping in my car after sneaking into campsites after dark and sneaking out before sunrise. I didn’t cash a meaningful check as a professional golfer for a few years. Somehow I managed to find golfers in need of swing tweaks all over the country. I traded knowledge for cash and then cash for entry fees and by the time it was over the world had rebounded.
I would find work in the field of golf very easily in the following period of economic maturation. A golf app, online coaching, and even golf course management offered me an income and a pretty easy life.
Not fully satisfied and lacking the determination and drive of competitive golf, I set out to build a new life of mastery in the business of sustainable golf – thus your connection to me, MNML GOLF.
Defined, discretionary spending is money used for things that a business or household can do without – money spent, saved, or invested after the necessities. It seems that spending money on golf is one of the best examples of discretionary spending. But is it?
Part Two: How golfing is an investment and should be sustained at all costs; including during a recession.
Recently I found out that I had a few stress related health issues. It came as a shock to me as, at the time, I felt I was in the best shape of my life both physically and mentally. I won’t go into details but there were more than a few very concerning issues that I was going to have to fix or it wasn’t going to be good.
I immediately booked a flight to Puerto Rico (my happy place and home from 2016 to 2018). When I got there I told my surf buddies that I was there to reduce some stress and figure out how to heal myself. I planned on being there for a week. The swell continued to roll in. Two weeks. Three. In the fourth week I felt I had to be responsible and get back to the shop in LA.
I was in California for 10 days before my girlfriend and I were on a flight back to PR. This time I’d be there for two weeks.
Did I figure out how to reduce stress and heal myself? Maybe…
If you’ve ever had, and been aware of, stress in your life, you know the feeling; shortness of breath, mind-racing thoughts, waking up in the middle of the night to some subconscious creation of a stressful work situation.
It’s not cool. You don’t sleep well, and when you’re awake you run at 100mph but with pretty poor mental clarity so it’s all just – in a word – shitty.
I hope you never have to deal with it. It’s, again, not cool. So how does golf get thrown into this mix and how does discretionary income play a role? I think you already know where I’m going with this but we’ve made it this far so let’s indulge a few more words 🙂
Golf, if done correctly (not necessarily well) is a four to five hour series of micro-meditations. Little blips of time that engulf the sensory side of the brain with visuals, feels, scents, sounds, and yes, even tastes (if you indulge at the half-way house or pack a beverage or two).
These micro-meditations in the setting of golf are insanely valuable, if not necessary, moments of present mindedness.
How much does therapy cost? Is your health discretionary? Can you justify spending money on heart medication to keep that bypass surgery at bay? Would you consider taking some time off work to regroup and destress? I bet you would. I bet if you could measure your daily stress levels you’d immediately schedule some time away from the office. But what if you can’t? What if you have responsibilities that just don’t allow for long trips to a tropical island? You guessed it. Golf.
Golf is one of the easiest ways to escape the daily pressures and stresses of life and join your friends for a meaningful moment in nature. Don’t allow yourself to classify it as discretionary. Classify it as flat out necessary.
Average cost of a 2-hour 9-hole round of golf: $25
Average cost of bypass surgery $90,000
Do the math, book a tee-time, and for the sake of your health, don’t cut golf out of your life.